If you want to spend some quality time with your child, and meet dozens of their friends and classmates, go to an outdoor camp with them.
I had the chance to do just that last month with my son and the rest of the fourth grade from his elementary school. We spent three days and two nights at Camp Hohobas, a Boy Scout of America camp overlooking Hood Canal.
I admit the idea of a school-sanctioned overnight camping trip was foreign to me. It was nothing I did in elementary school oh-so-many years ago.
When the trip first came up, the thought of spending extended time with a bunch of energy-filled 8- and 9-year-olds had me leafing through my day planner in search of a well-timed work conflict. Alas, there were no notes of upcoming meetings or interviews for those days.
Still, when the opportunity to serve as a guest instructor and chaperone came up, I thought it would be fun. I just didn’t realize how much fun it would be.
My introduction to the kids was while serving as assistant casting instructor to Dave Alberts, the husband of one of the teachers. He had prepared a short talk about fishing, and after that, we moved to a dock to practice casting.
But with four kids and two adults on the dock, and others awaiting their turns, there was no safe and practical way to actually fish, much to everyone’s chagrin. Still, we managed to have plenty of fun tossing practice lures into the lake.
I was impressed with the number of kids – girls and boys – who had been out fishing with a parent or grandparent. Those with some experience easily tossed the lures out over the lake. While the boys opted for the power method, the girls relied more on timing and technique. The result, and distance, was the same.
It was the kids who had not been fishing that made me smile the most. They couldn’t wait to get on the dock and give it a try. Often the first effort failed to reach the water. But with each successive cast, the lure went farther and their smiles grew bigger. Even when a shower pelted the dock with raindrops, no one wanted to head for shelter.
The next day I was given the job of watching over five students as we did the two-mile hike to Hood Canal. As the kids raced down the hill, anxious to get to the beach, I reminded them that whatever hill we go down, we must hike back up to return to camp. My sage advice was lost on them.
Once at the water, they fanned out to explore the shell-filled beach. We spent more than an hour wandering around, the kids trying to match the items in the work books they carried. We sought out oysters, limpets, mussels and more. We also found crabs and gunnels. One group of oyster shells a child picked up had a small glob of eggs on it. We marveled as the falling tide revealed dozens of sea stars clinging to old pilings.
The joys of discovery were still in my head when we began the march back up the hill. On occasion I had to remind the faster walkers to stay with the group. But I was most impressed when some of the kids offered to carry another’s backpack. At one point, they all seemed to have someone else’s pack – a remarkable display of teamwork.
Since then, I’m often greeted by some of my 60-plus new friends when I walk my children to school. “Hey Mr. Mayor,” they say, “fishing was my favorite part of camp.”
I’m not sure who smiles most at the memory. My only regret is we could not figure out a way to give 60-some kids a chance to safely fish. I’ve got a year to figure that out.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure